HUNTLEY – It was only a matter a time before Huntley senior Ryan Craig came around to the game of golf.
Probably because there’s a golf course in his backyard.
Living right off the fifth hole of Crystal Woods in Woodstock, a golf course owned by his family and operated by his golf pro father John, Ryan, a former baseball player, only truly started picking up the golf club during his freshman year.
“I guess you can say it was in my blood,” Ryan said.
“I never really went out on the course. I always focused on baseball. I thought if I played golf it would mess up my baseball swing.”
Ryan was never forced into what has become the family business, but once he committed, his natural abilities took over.
This past season Craig posted a 36.4 average for nine holes, won the Fox Valley Conference Tournament, won the Class 3A Barrington Sectional and took 14th at the rain-shortened IHSA Class 3A State Tournament.
He separated himself from his area peers with those accomplishments and has been named Northwest Herald Boys Golf Player of the Year.
“Through the years I figured it’s not about the long game, it’s the short game,” Craig said. “My junior and senior years I realized that the swing and putting are important, but it only gets you so far. My mental game sets me above other players.”
Huntley coach Jim Rolando said the growth of Craig's game coincided with the growth of the Huntley golf program.
“That very first day his freshman year, I remember the coaches saying that they think he’s going to be our No. 1 golfer by the end of the year,” Rolando said.
Rolando added that Craig took it upon himself to get better.
Since the beginning of his competitive career, Craig wanted to play with and learn from the likes of former Crystal Lake South star Nick Robles and former Jacobs standout Scott Cahill. He was getting beat by those players, but he learned plenty of course management along the way.
He used what he learned this summer, when Rolando said he saw the biggest change in Craig.
“Ryan’s a laid back kid and kind of sauntered around the golf course,” Roland said. “But this year around the summer when I watched him, he was playing with a purpose and was a lot more focused on every shot.”
Craig’s summer included a win in the Illinois Junior Golf Association’s 32nd Chick Evans Jr. Amateur Championship and rolled into season play for the Red Raiders.
But maybe Craig’s greatest source of competition comes from within his own home.
Last season, Ryan’s younger brother, sophomore Trent, beat out Ryan in a playoff at sectionals to move on to state. However, Ryan did not dwell on that defeat and used this season to make a trip to state of his own.
“It’s not necessarily been a competition between us,” Ryan said. “We both want to beat each other, but it’s just fun to go out and have fun together.”
All of Ryan’s accomplishments this season came with a torn ACL that he suffered in a game of basketball in March. Stretching and exercising helped delay surgery until this month.
Miami of Ohio is a place Ryan would like to play, but ultimately he wants a worthwhile college experience. Anything he does is OK with his father.
“His short-term goal is to play at a Division I college,” John Craig said. “By picking the game up a little later, he’s not at all burned out on golf. He’s indicated to us he’s going to take it one step at a time.”